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Israel Expands Offensive In Gaza

An Israeli rocket is fired into the northern Gaza Strip on July 18.

Israeli military forces have renewed their assault on suspected militant targets in the Gaza Strip with Palestinian medical officials claiming more than 60 people have been killed.

Israel and Hamas agreed to a two-hour humanitarian cease-fire earlier in the day on July 20 but the truce lasted only minutes before it was broken.

Israeli troops backed by tanks pushed into the Shijaiyah neighborhood in the morning as Israel widened its ground operation in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his country is taking this action to halt Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli territory and added, "We try to target military targets and unfortunately there are civilian casualties which we regret."

Medical personnel in Shijaiyah, meanwhile, report that bodies are lying on the streets.

Israel began bombarding the Hamas-ruled territory on July 8 in response to rockets fired by Palestinian militants into Israel.

Thousands of Israeli soldiers crossed into Gaza on July 17 to destroy the tunnels and concealed rocket launchers used by the militants.

Earlier on July 20, Palestinian officials said that more than 330 people had been killed by Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip in 12 days of violence.

A spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said nearly 61,500 people in Gaza had sought sanctuary with the agency.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is traveling to the region this weekend in a bid to broker a ceasefire.

Kerry Urges Hamas To Accept Cease-Fire

In related news, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has defended Israel's military incursion into Gaza and called on Hamas to immediately accept an Egyptian-backed cease-fire.

"War is ugly...But [Hama leaders] need to recognize their own responsibility [in the continuation of the fighting]," he said on ABC's "This Week" on July 20.

Kerry added that Hamas has rejected efforts to de-escalate the conflict by refusing to agree to a truce.

He said on CNN that Israel is "under siege by a terrorist organization," referring to Hamas.

Kerry was caught on a live mic speaking to an aide on "Fox News Sunday," saying sarcastically that the Israeli action was "a hell of a pinpoint operation."

When asked about the comment, Kerry said the U.S. supports Israel's right to self-defense.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, dpa, and AP
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